Videos from n00bcon X - The World Championship!

So we did a stream from this years n00bcon and of course we wanted to share it for those who wasn't able to see it live. Sorry to say that due to an unstable internet connection some portions of the stream were lost. But here you have most of the tournament and interviews.

Here below you can find the playlist with all six videos in order.

The "action" starts at around 0.56.30 in.

Let’s all just have a good time!

Daniel "Paddan" Sunhedes amazing LoA and Timetwister proxies.

By: Grant Casleton

This is written in mind that I only play Eternal Central rules and will never play Swedish rules. That isn’t because I don’t like the rules, I just won’t ever be in a position to use those rules. Whether it be me not being in Sweden/Europe, or I just plain don’t have enough cards.

I am very happy where Old School is at currently. The current banned and restricted list is simple and I don’t believe it needs any tooling. There is conversation that usually comes up every other week that I’m very tired of having to hear or listen to. I don’t give a shit about Strip Mine, nor do I give a rats ass about Mishra’s Factory. Let me say that again, for those of you who want to keep wasting your breath on this subject. I don’t give a shit about Strip Mine, nor do I give a rats ass about Mishra’s Factory.

Library of Alexandria is another whole story but I like to play mine and I like to draw cards. I’ve won because of LoA and I’ve lost because of it too. Half the time I’m not playing it because I need three red sources and a green to kill you before that LoA takes over the game. Not saying it’s the best way, but it’s unexpected and it’s fun!

Do I understand why you want to argue blue in the face? Sure. Do I care about your stupid opinion? No. After playing this game for about 10 years, I’ve realised that Magic players are an opinionated group. I actually found that out at the first FNM I went to when a grown ass man argued with me and got upset over a simple rule. Take this article for instance. It’s just my shitty hot take on something that I care about. Having a good time.

I started playing Old School because it would give me an excuse to play outside of a formal shop and have some adult beverages. The rules of gathering are quite simple compared to meeting in a shop, paying a fee, playing timed rounds, and hoping to win some sweet prize packs. I can take that $10, buy a Chicago Handshake, and get the ball rolling (hopefully with a Berserk to follow). I’ve not had this much fun playing Magic since I’ve started and that’s saying something.

So when I log onto Twitter or whatever other Social Media site I like to kill time with, I’d rather not see people petitioning to get things changed. Especially when things are already pretty good and just don’t need to be changed. I am playing this game because it’s fun and I don’t care what I win. Do I want to win and do well? Of course, I would assume everyone wants to do well. But that isn’t why I’m driving 8 hours to a city I’ve never been to just to sling some cardboard.

If you want to change some rules while playing at your kitchen table, do it. That’s what has made this game what it is since its inception. You can play by the rules, or make your own and still have a good time. But you wanting something changed for everyone is selfish and stupid.

I don’t give a shit how many aggro decks made the top 8. It means literally nothing to me. I care if my opponent has a good time playing me and leaves thinking “that was fun”. I’ve been Strip Mined into oblivion on many occasions and I fully understand that it is just the double edged sword that is Old School.

American or Swedish

Comparing the rules of Swedish Legal to Eternal Central is also completely asinine. I’m quite glad it’s a little different and it’s give us information to contrast what both metas have going on. Don’t shit on something you’ve not tried.

I am also proud of the fact that the Lords of the Pit have held many fundraising tournaments. Being able to conjoin helping out others AND being able to play a game I love. It makes me proud to know the crew in Chicago and everyone else who’s travelled states away to give money and compete.

This is a rambly piece of me trying to understand why people want to complain about such a fun game and format. The fact that this has grown organically since its inception in Sweden so many years ago really says something about it.

Finally, I just ask that you people stop complaining. Enjoy what you have. Chain Lightning isn’t worth restricting and neither is City in a Bottle. Strip Mine and Mishra’s Factory are fine and you need to sack up and just deal with it. If you don’t like them, jam Armageddon in your deck and have a go. Or better yet, play Stone Rain and Ice Storm, and see how far that gets you.

Tron part 2

So, it’s time for part two of my adventure with Tron in old school. Last time I wrote about my initial thoughts about the problems with Tron so let’s start with a short recap.

And if  you haven't read the first part you can find it here.

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The Recap

The big problem is that Tron takes 12 slots and if you add all the other “must include” mana sources it ends up taking almost all the mana source slots without giving you the ability to play colored spells. And as Tron is unreliable you can’t play over the top expensive spells, so the big question is why we should try to assemble tron instead of just playing Fellwar and Mana Vaults which is much more consistent? I ended up thinking Fireball was the way to go to try make a tron deck viable. The reason for this is that Fireball can be good both with and without Tron assembled. Now let’s see how that has gone.

The mana

So, I started by building a deck with waaay to many mana sources as I wanted to play 12 Urza lands, 5 Moxen, Lotus, Sol Ring, Library of Alexandria, Strip Mine, Mishra's Workshop and 4 Mishra’s Factory. After that I needed to add colored sources for my idea to work, that’s when it started to get a little crazy. I started trying to add just 6 sources to have a total of 7 with the mox. I knew that was actually way too few, but with a total of 32 sources that was already at least 2 more sources than I wanted. I decided to go for 4 Volcanic Island and 2 City of Brass so I also could play blue power and not only a couple of Fireballs. I goldfished a bit and as I thought, it was unplayable. I added two more City of Brass and played a whooping 34 mana sources which of course isn’t a good solution. As I wasn’t planning on playing that many colored spells and most of them were late game spells, 9 sources were actually ok. Not good, but ok.

To bring down the total count I did the unthinkable, I cut all four Mishra’s Factory. Maybe not the best idea but let us leave the mana base like this for now and look at how the deck actually could look like. Usually I’d start there but as the mana base is the foundation of this deck and also it’s biggest problem, I needed to start there for this particular brew.

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So much mana

The idea

So how do we continue this build? My first idea was to try to draw a lot of cards so we could assemble Tron. The cards I tried out were Jalum Tome, Jayemdae Tome and also Sindbad. Sindbad seemed like a good choice as lands are what we want. Maybe then we also could play with more mana sources as mentioned above? I even tried adding Sylvan Library for the Sindbads to work better and give me more chances to draw the Urza lands. But no, that didn’t work at all. The deck didn’t do anything as the lands and card draw took up most slots. And I still weren’t able to assemble Tron that often. So this idea was a no go.

Maybe I could ad Millstones to combo with Sylvan? Then I could also maybe play Field of Dreams... but then I have no use of Tron anymore.

My next plan was to completely skip thinking about assembling Tron and just play a Su-Chi, Triskelion, Fireballs and power. The thing about this idea is that I probably needs Mana Vault or Fellwar Stone for ramping into those creatures. But as said many times before, there isn’t space for more mana sources. But I couldn’t come up with a better idea so I went with this.

The cards

So let’s talk about the card choices of my rough sketch.

30 Mana sources

These are described and pictured above. (Forgot the Workshop in the picture)

7 Restricted cards

Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, Timetwister, Recall, Braingeyser, Wheel of Fortune and Chaos Orb. Not much to say about these cards are there? They are good and if you have them, you should play them.

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5 X-spells

I have no idea why I went for 5 but it seemed like a good number to start on. It should mean that we will draw at least two X-spells each game and as the plan is to burn out the opponent it seemed good. Some playtesting is required to really decide what number is the best. By the way, I went for 4 Fireball and 1 Disintegrate as I love the ability to split up the Fireball.

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12 Creatures

I started by adding a playset of all the good artifact creatures in the format; Juggernaut, Su-Chi and Triskelion. There are other playable creatures like Dragon Engine and Tetravus but I wanted to try with just the best first and see if I need more after some playtesting. Dragon Engine would be cool as it becomes quite dangerous with Tron assembled but it’s not a great card.

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6 Flex slots

This is the part that is least thought through but I started out with 2 Jayemdae Tome, 1 Jalum Tome, 1 Disrupting Scepter and 2 Candelabra of Tawnos. But this quickly changed quite a bit. The Candelabra is only good with Tron as I removed the Factories so those got cut. Too many tomes and the scepter made it hard to activate them all without Tron so I cut the scepter and the Jalum Tome. I could probably add a third Jayemdae Tome but I actually don’t own one more. That left me with 4 slots and I that’s when I realized I didn’t have any removal or protection from flying creatures so I added two Maze of Ith. The other two slots became Copy Artifacts as I do play a couple of blue sources. I’m not sure how reliable it is to cast them early so I don’t know if they are any good. But I’ll try for now. Another card that could be added is Icy Manipulator as it can be a little bit of everything; removal, wincon (with City of Brass), mana denial or you could use it to tap down blockers. But with so many 4-drops I’ll test the Copy Artifacts for now. Maybe we could also splash black for Demonic and Mind Twist as we are playing 5 sources of black mana?

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The play

So just what is the plan of the deck as it looks right now? The threats are almost the same as in the classic blue red artifact aggro deck but the plan is quite different. That deck uses Mana Vault to power out an early threat and then can copy it with Copy Artifact to put on massive amounts of pressure early on. This deck however, doesn’t have any Mana Vaults and also play 4 more 4-drop creatures, so the plan is a little bit different. We sacrifice the early game with the plan to put out one threat every turn from turn 3 (we should be able to draw one mox) and onwards. That’s is the reason we play so many creatures and maybe even should play more. I also count the Jayemdae Tome as a threat as it will take over the game if it stays in play.

If the opponent is able to deal with the constant stream of threats we have our late game plan which consists of turning the opponent to ashes with a ball o fire. The longer the game goes on, the greater chance of assembling Tron to be able to cast Fireballs for 10+ damage. That’s why I decided to go with 5 X-spells as drawing two probably should close out the game if it goes long.

The big problem here is of course artifact hate and aggressive decks that kill us before we can get our plan rolling. We are however playing both red and blue which gives us access to BEB and REB against opposing burn, Energy Flux, Serendib Efreets, Shatterstorm and things like that. Also if we decide not to play Copy Artifact we only play 5 blue spells and maybe can think about playing Blood Moon in the sideboard if we think that would be more powerful than the Tron plan in some matchups.

The end

I haven’t yet tested the deck so this is just theory crafting right now but as I see it the above plan is at least in theory viable. Maybe the deck isn’t good and maybe it’s just better to play a more solid mana base with more ramp in the form of Fellwar Stone and also Mishra’s Factory. But who knows, maybe Tron kan steal a couple of games here and there and therefore is worth it.

I’ll sleeve it up and test is, tune it and come back with a part three I think. But we should not expect any miracles from this deck is my gut feeling.

PS. 

This post was written at the same time as the first post and I have since gotten more ideas on how to build Tron in old school. But this was my first thought process on how to make it viable. The only other viable idea I have heard of is making a Parfait style mono brown deck that can utilize the card draw to draw tron. That is a good idea as those decks often want to plat lots of cards in the same turn and therefore can use the mana and still play relatively inexpensive stuff for when you don't assemble Tron. Maybe I'll write more about that one in the future!

Old School Tron - Viable or not?

I’m a super big fan of artifacts, in all possible formats. I even have a mono brown EDH deck, built before wastes were printed so the mana base is a bit crazy. That’s why I’ve always wanted to build a mono brown deck in 93/94 so I wanted to share my initial thoughts about this and why I actually haven’t done this yet.

Disclaimer:

But first I would like to say that what I write here will only be true if you play by the Swedish B&R. The reason for this is that there is a really big difference between the Eternal Central rules and the Swedish ones when it comes to mono brown and that is that the EC rules permit four Workshops. This will be written with the premise that only one Mishra’s Workshop is allowed.

Let's start with the mana base

The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking mono brown in 93/94 are the Urza lands so that is where I will start my build. The premise from now on is therefore that I want to play Tron in 93/94. With that said, let’s start by looking at the deck’s mana base.

After we start with the 12 Urza lands other lands we should add to our deck is of course 4 Mishra’s Factory, 1 Mishra’s Workshop, 1 Strip Mine and 1 Library of Alexandria. No deck should be without them, at least if you don’t need colored mana. And then we have the seven restricted artifact sources, 5 moxen, Black Lotus and Sol Ring. This brings us to a total of 26 mana sources which is a good starting point for any deck. If the deck has a low mana curve we could go down to 24 - 25 sources and if it’s a control deck or a deck with a really high curve we should probably go up to 28 or maybe even 29 sources. As we just added all the essential mana sources and got 26 sources we’re clearly not going to try to build a deck with a low curve because there is no mana source we can cut. Also, the Urza lands can sometimes give us us an amazing amount of mana so we absolutely don’t want to be a low curve deck because then there is no point of playing the Urza lands. That instead leaves us with 3 slots left for the mana base and I would say either 3 Fellwar Stones or 3 Mana Vaults seems good here depending on how we build the deck. We could also add three colored sources which with a mox and lotus would give us a total of 5 sources of that color, probably not enough for even a slight splash.

Trouble on the horizon

This is where the trouble begin. The whole idea with playing the Urza lands is that we can get a lot of mana. Therefore, we should play expensive spells to utilize that fact. The problem however is that the Urza lands are unreliable and we probably will play more games that not without being able to assemble the three different pieces. So if we play too expensive spells we won't be able to cast them in many of our games. That doesn’t seem that good, so what should we do about that? I only see three possible solutions for this problem so let’s have a look at them.

Solution #1

The first idea I had was to take the easy way out and not play super expensive cards. Maybe instead top the curve with a couple of Triskelions (which still is pretty expensive) and otherwise focus on Su-Chi, Icy Manipulator and things like that. The problem with this solution is that if we’re not going to go all in on expensive spells and instead play Su-Chi and Triskelion, why are we even playing the Urza lands? We could instead just play Artifact Aggro with Mana Vaults as acceleration and also then be able to play colored spells. Once again the Urza lands and therefore the deck loses it’s purpose.

Expensive enough?

Read more about Artifact Aggro here

Solution #2

The second solution I can think of is playing cards that aren’t too expensive to play but can act as mana sinks when we are able to assemble tron. So what mana sinks are there in the format? This is the list I came up with:

  • Dragon Engine (Not good but at least playable)
  • Rocket Launcher (Same as above)
  • Candelabra of Tawnos (A perfect card for the deck)
  • Barl’s Cage (Pretty ok with tron but otherwise bad)
  • Reflecting Mirror (Maybe in the sideboard against burn?)
  • Rakalite (Just too bad of a card)

Yeah, that doesn’t work. But we also have a couple of mono artifacts with expensive activation costs that could be considered mana sinks, as we can use them and still have mana over for other things. These are the ones that springs to mind:

  • Al-Abara’s Carpet (A little too expensive)
  • Ring of Immortals (Could be good but too expensive)
  • The Hive (Same as above but a tiny bit better)
  • Disrupting Scepter (This could work but it’s not an amazing card)
  • Jayemdae Tome (We all know this is definitely going into the deck)
  • Jalum tome (This one can also help us find the tron pieces so it may make the cut)

Ok, after having looked at this I’m not convinced this will work. Playing to many of these cards will make the deck too clunky if we once again don’t have all three Urza lands on the battlefield.

 

Solution #3

The third solution is where I am right now but it instead gives us another problem. I think the solution is to play spells with variable mana cost, X-spells. Spells like Fireball and Braingeyser are good even without assembling tron and if we do they are amazing! This is why we started to look at the mana base because if you remember we could only fit 5 sources of colored mana. So this will give us a deck the is unreliable when it both comes to assemble the Urza lands and actually getting the colored sources we need.

So how do we solve this? This is where I’m at now and I will give you an update at a later date on how the brewing has gone. But the first thoughts are to cut Mishra’s Factory (which could be considered a sin) or go up in mana sources to 31 or so. Neither seems good but we’ll see.

alpha-signed-fireball

Time to splash!

To be continued...

142 skype matches, 40 decks and one winner!

Today we have another guest post, this time by the great Dave Firth Bard. You may recognize his name from Reddit where he almost single handedly publish all old school content from the web on the old school sub reddit. You may also recognize the name because he is one of the main figures when it comes to playing old school over Skype. Or maybe you just know his name because he is very active in all old school forums there is. He is one of the most active guys I know and a true supporter of the community and format so I'm glad to be able to publish his report from the latest Skype tournament, the 2018 winter Derby, here on the blog. 

I hope you enjoy his report as much as I do!

/Gordon


The 2018 Winter Derby

The 2018 Winter Derby is now in the books! The Winter Derby is an online Old School 93/94 Magic tournament, open to anyone with a webcam and the willingness to turn old cardboard sideways with fellow players on the other side of the ocean.

This year’s event saw 41 participants, representing ten countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States) spread across nine different time zones. Over the course of five weeks (late December through January), we played a total 142 matches, spanning seven rounds and Top 8. And the stakes? Mostly just glory and bragging rights, along with an invitation to n00bcon X for the victor.

This marks the second year that a n00bcon invitation has been allocated to our international community of 93/94 webcam players. (There is a good interview with Gregory Protic, last year’s Skype group delegate for n00bcon 9, available here on the Flippin’ Orbs podcast.) Playing Old School using a webcam on Skype or appear.in is an excellent way for players from small local playgroups -- or players with no local playgroups at all -- to find some opponents and start jamming games. And, through the Winter Derby, those players have a unique route to secure a n00bcon invite, especially if they are not associated with one of the established 93/94 communities that already receive invitations.

DESIGNING AN ONLINE TOURNAMENT

But how does it all work? How can we have a tournament when the players are scattered all over the globe, and all with jobs and kids and busy schedules? Organizing a webcam tournament on a single day or weekend seems like it should be possible, but in practice that would require each player to devote six or seven hours in a solid, uninterrupted block of time, with the Americans playing in the early morning, the Europeans playing in the afternoon through the evening, and players further east all but prohibited from the action without seriously sacrificing their sleep. And, bear in mind that many of us who play Old School on Skype have real-life obligations that make playing all day on a Saturday very unlikely, if not totally out of the question.

So, the structure of the event has to match the needs and habits of the group. When pairings are posted, the players have about 10 days (always including two weekends) to schedule their matches at a time that works for both their opponent and themselves. Less than 10 days would make it difficult for players to participate if they had to be away for a weekend, and more than 10-14 days would make the event much too long to reasonably commit to, and more difficult to keep player attention and momentum.

Unfortunately, this also means that having a tournament with true Swiss pairings is unworkable; if we waited for each match in a round to be scheduled and finished in a 10 day window, it would easily take 2-3 months to complete six or more rounds of Swiss. So instead, we assign multiple pairings for each player at the same time, and post them together in batches. This allows for three or four “rounds” to be completed within the same 10 day span, with fully flexible scheduling for the players. The results can then be compiled all at once, after which a new batch of pairings is posted.

We had experimented with different ways of doing batch pairings during previous instances of the tournament -- the 2017 Summer Derby and the first “Web Qualifier Derby” in 2016/17 -- and our tinkering continued this time: we introduced a “group stage” batch, in which players were assigned to self-contained round robin pods of four players each, according to geography and interest in competing for the n00bcon invitation. After the group stage, players were assigned four new opponents: two according to Swiss pairing rules (based on overall standings), and two completely randomized.

A few outcomes were worth noting. Players reported that the scheduling for the group stage batch was easier than other batches historically, which was to be expected because of the initial group arrangements by time zone. We also found that by the end of seven rounds, there was a much wider spread of OMW% than one would see in a typical Swiss tournament structure. For example, of the six players with 15 points (5-2 record), the OMW% ranged from 55.1% to 41.5%. Players generally saw more variance in their different paths through the event than they would with a Swiss pairing structure, in which players who continue to win are guaranteed to be paired against successively stronger opponents. In a straight Swiss tournament, after seven rounds, an event with 41 players would have a maximum of one player remaining at x-0, whereas we ended up with two players entering the Top 8 with unbeaten records.

While there is no “perfect” way of structuring an event like this, I’m excited to continue iterating and improving the design of our webcam tournaments in the future, and seeing what other knobs and levers I can use to find the sweet spot of making things as equitable and competitive as possible while also keeping the logistical friction as low as possible for all involved. But enough of that, then… let’s turn our attention to what you most likely came here to see:

THE DECKS! (40 OUT OF 41 PLAYERS)

We had quite the range of archetypes and approaches in the Winter Derby, reflecting the variety of communities and countries represented in the event. We had different flavors of Mono Black, a few assorted takes on RUG Zoo, UW Skies, UWR in aggressive, midrange, and control variants, format pillars UR Counterburn and The Deck, Tax Edge, Eureka, Power Monolith, Esper midrange lists, some Disco, Mono Green, and some pretty spicy and offbeat lists like Robot Reanimator, Jund Machine Head, and a control deck involving Control Magic, Diamond Valley, and Skull of Orm that’s been getting a lot of buzz. I received deck photos to share from almost all of the players, so here they are! Take a look, and enjoy:

(Click to enlarge and browse between the decks.)

THE ACTION

Players reported back throughout the event on our community Facebook group, and lots of funny stories and interesting interactions were shared. Perhaps my favorite tale was of Paul using Ring of Ma'rûf to wish for a Celestial Prism from the sideboard, later using it to make blue mana to cast a Spell Blast. Old School really never ceases to amaze me, as even now, in The Year of Our Lord 2018, we are still seeing utterly novel combinations, board states, and lines of play that may very well have never occurred in the history of the game. And all of that using cardboard printed 25 years ago, and experienced face-to-face across thousands of miles via a virtual platform.

For my part, I piloted a UWR goodstuff pile mainly containing just “cards that I like,” including zero copies of Swords to Plowshares in my 75. Florian rightly called it “not really a deck,” but I was able to catch enough luck and Copy Artifact enough Orbs to crack the Top 8, along with my fellow New England Old School players Scott (Grixis Disco) and Xanadude (Esper Goodstuff). Hearing reports of friends from my local group squaring off against great players from Europe and elsewhere made me very happy indeed.

 Manolakos vs Grudzina: “What does that Skull do?”

Manolakos vs Grudzina: “What does that Skull do?”

I ended up losing in the quarterfinals to Bryan Manolakos and his aforementioned Skull of Orm deck -- an undeniably sweet brew that makes good use of Diamond Valley, one of those lands that you don’t see as much in the States because of all of the Strip Mines flying around. Bryan went on to edge out Svante Landgraf (Power Monolith) in the semifinals, and John Grudzina (The Deck) bested Eliot (RUG Aggro) in the quarters and Joep (GWu Midrange) in the semis, setting up a final match between two Americans who had actually just played together in real life at the Top Deck Games 93/94 event in New Jersey that same week. The resulting “subway series” -- or, I suppose, New Jersey Turnpike series -- featured a thoroughly classic control list against an innovative upstart control list, and the action was streamed on Twitch with commentary provided by Christopher Cooper.

 Grudzina on his way to sealing game 3 with an enormous Braingeyser.

Grudzina on his way to sealing game 3 with an enormous Braingeyser.

When the dust settled, John Grudzina emerged with a 3-0 victory, and quickly confirmed that he was both willing and able to represent the Old School webcam player community at n00bcon X in Gothenburg this year.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Easily the most fulfilling part of the Winter Derby experience for me was seeing players who I have known for several months (or even a couple years now) in the Skype group playing against each other for the first time, and Skype players I know from various parts of the U.S. or elsewhere playing against friends from my local community. I lost count of the number of times during the tournament that I said, “Wow! I can’t believe you two didn’t know each other before -- you really should know each other, I think you’d get along great and I’m glad that you were finally able to play Magic together.” I continuously got positive feedback and good vibes back from all of the players, which is really all you can ask for as a tournament organizer… truly the only goal is to make sure everyone is comfortable and having fun.

And in terms of the n00bcon X invitation, I also believe that our goals were met: this year’s “Web Qualifier” went to a player who wouldn’t otherwise have had a clear path to Sweden. While New York is one of the biggest cities on the planet, I think that in terms of Old School, it is still a rather small community (albeit gaining traction recently, through the efforts of Paul aka @8bit_mtg and others) and well-deserving of some representation at 93/94’s big dance. The “group stage” pairing method was designed in part to make certain that the winner of the n00bcon invite would have been matched against others in the tournament who were serious about competing for and using the bid if they received it, and that’s exactly how it shook out in the end. So congratulations again to John, and to all of the participants in this year’s Winter Derby, thank you for playing! I hope you had as much fun as I did.

 

And finally, if you are out there in Old School land and want to get in on the webcam game action with us, by all means join the Facebook group. And if Facebook really isn’t your thing, there’s a Discord channel you can check out as well to try and pick up some games.